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THE    ART    OF    LIVING                     


Although the Chinese may learn from the West a great d
about a sense of proportion in arranging for feasts, they have,
in this field as in medicine, many famous and wonderful recipes
to teach the Westerners. In the cooking of ordinary things like
vegetables and chickens, the Chinese have a rich store to hand
to the West, when the West is ready and humble enough to
learn it. This seems unlikely until China has built a few good
gun-boats and can punch the West in the jaw, when it will be
admitted that we are unquestionably better cooks as a nation.
But until that time comes, there is no use talking about it.
There are thousands of Englishmen in the Shanghai Settlement
who have never stepped inside a Chinese restaurant, and the
Chinese are bad evangelists. We never force salvation on
anybody who does not come to ask for it. We have no gun-
boats, anyway, and even if we had, we would never care to go
up the Thames or the Mississippi and shoot the English or the
Americans into heaven against their will.

As to drinks, we are naturally moderate except as regarding
tea. Owing to the comparative absence of distilled liquor^ one
very seldom sees drunkards in the streets. But tea-drinking is
an art in itself. It amounts with some persons almost to a cult.
There are special books about tea-drinking as there are special
books about incense and wine and rocks for house decoration*
More than any other human invention of this nature, the
drinking of tea has coloured our daily life as a nation, and gives
rise to the institution of tea-houses which are approximate
equivalents of Western cafes for the common people. People
drink tea in their homes and in the tea-houses, alone and in
company, at committee meetings and at the settling of dis-
putes. They drink tea before breakfast and at midnight With
a teapot, a Chinese is happy wherever he is. It is a universal
habit, and it has no deleterious effect whatsoever, except in very
rare cases, as in my native district where according to tradition
some people have drunk themselves bankrupt. This is only
possible with extremely costly tea, but the average tea is cheap,
and the average tea in China is good enough for a prince. The
best tea is mild and gives a "back-flavour" which comes after
a minute or two, when its chemical action has set in on the
salivary glands. Such good tea puts everybody in good humour.